Monday, April 23, 2012

Aquaponics, Jade perch & a bit of a roundup.....

Aquaponic update…
We finally have some table fish in the Aquaponic system… We ordered 25 Jade Perch from ANFE & picked them up on Thursday the 12th of April… Just held off posting to made certain I didn't "loose" any ;)»

Aquaponic mishaps...

Spent the past few days playing around with the pipe work for the system after having a few HSM's (HOLY SHIT/SUGAR/SHIVA moment's) with the FT (fish tank) overflowing due to clogged ports.. The fish are eating the algal growth & the stray bits are causing blockages in the drilled out end caps of the SLO's (Solids Lifting Overflow) that feed the GB (grow bed) & empty back into the sump.. I added an "emergency overflow" port that runs directly into the sump as an extra precaution..   I was looking at increasing the size of the holes in the end caps of the SLO's but received a comment on the clip from a most helpful viewer that recommended  making slits in the pipes instead of holes & run them vertically down the uptake pipe so did them first thing this morning.. Thanks "youronnit" 
A make shift cover was made up to help keep sunlight out so that will hopefully slow the growth of the algae..

 New grow beds & pipe work..
Have picked up the extra pipe needed for the grow beds but ran out of time this weekend.. I already have the bell siphons & enough 1" pipe to make the returns to the sump so hopefully some progress will be made this week.. Once I'm happy with the set up the GB's will be lined with black plastic on the outside (to stop algae growth)  then set in place.. Would like to fill the GB's with clay balls but due to a change in state government, B will be bumped down a few pay levels **zips lips so as not to rant then kicks soap box away** so it may mean a change from clay balls to rock for one of the GB's.. Might bring them on line 1 at a time as I think there are enough clay balls leftover from the old barrelponic system for 1 GB so we shall just see how we go..

Week in the dirt patch...

On Thursday we had whole house water filter system installed.. As chlorine & chloramines (found in most town water supplies around Australia) both indiscriminately kill good & bad bacteria/fungi we are concerned about using tap water that smells like its come straight from a pool on the garden beds... The system contains 2 coconut carbon filters as well as a pre filter that will remove the larger particles giving the carbon's longer life spans.. The main aim is to remove as much chlorine & chloramines from the water in case we need it for emergency top up water for the aquaponics.. It will also mean that we won't be killing off any of the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi we have been adding into the beds over the past few weeks when we have been sowing seed..

Made the decision to order some Veggie netting from Net Pro on Friday & it arrived 1st thing Monday morning (today) so will need to knock some frames up this week.. White cabbage butterfly eggs & a few small caterpillars have already been removed from some of the kale & cauliflowers in the patch.. Will also be used as a 20% shade cloth during summer which is another bonus as we have been looking for a lower % shade cloth..

Sunday saw us planting out a few seeds & 9 broccoli into the beds.. (Full list in Planting Diary)

Friday also saw this little feller finely emerge from a chrysalis...
Not sure of the variety as of yet but have set the task to our eldest as part of her studies for Monday..


Until next time, have a good one...
: )»

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back to basics with mulch...

“Back to Eden” Documentary & Timer mulching..

Have been getting stuck back into a few jobbies in the patch the past few weeks as Winter is creeping up on us.. One job that we neglected to do for a few of the beds during summer was mulching.. We normally buy sugar cane mulch & top the beds with.. This is then turned into the beds before planting out the following crop.. Was reading on line (a Simple Savings thread from memory) where someone mentioned that sugar cane mulch tend to use up nitrogen when dug through the soil as added organic matter.. This is far from desirable when trying to build up fertile soils..  It wont be turned into the beds from now on & the plan is to make up our own mulch for future use from local resources.. 
One method of mulching we have become interested in is the “
Back to Eden” method that some You Tube gardeners we follow have been using.. This documentary was a great mini refresher course in the ways of mulch that have helped us to rethink our mulching ways.. 
The core theme of the film is the use of semi composted tree trimmings/wood chips as a thick mulch that can help you to garden on undesirable soil types..
Other ways wood chips/timber mulch can be of great benefit to the health of all soil types are,
  • Beneficial fungus, worms & bacteria will break the chips/mulch down from underneath working the nutrients into the soil improving soil structure so no tilling is required..
  • Suppresses the weeds from growing & the ones that germinate on the surface are easy to pull due to the loose nature of the mulch layer..
  • Insulates the soil from the extremes of cold & heat.
  • It can be used in many styles of farming/gardening.. Orchards, veggie plots, pots on a deck or veranda could all benefit from a layer of mulch..
  • Fertilisers such as composted manures & garden waste can still be added as a top dress.. 
  • Liquid fertilisers like seaweed, worm cast tea & fish emulsion are a great to use as not only do they add nutrients but the action of the liquid will move nutrients from the decomposing top layer into the soil below..
  • The wood chips hold water & release it when the ground around it dries out..
Our mulching progress..
We have been slowly processing a ½ rotten mango from our neighbours yard in the electric mulcher with some of this mulch already being added to bed #’s 5 & 9.. There is still more to mulch & we might play around with it in a few different mulch blends yet..
 The mango tree in the chook yard & some Chinese elms have been pruned then mulched up to run a few experiments.. The aim of all is to find which will breakdown the best into a usable wood mulch.. 2 barrels were set up with a mix of the different mulch, some lawn clippings, a large bag of off spinach leaves from a store & a bag of well composted horse manure that had a few worms inhabiting it.. Some castings full of worms were then added straight from a worm farm into 1 barrel to see how the 2 compare..
On Good Friday morning we purchased a Tumbleweed Composter from Gumtree then set about mulching the rest of the elms.. The mulch was used in 3 different tests to try some other methods of composting.. A barrel was set up with a mix of dried & fresh Chinese elm mulch with about 500g of 
Dynamic Lifter to add some extra nutrients to see how it will go..  The Tumbleweed was also filled with the same mix as the barrel.. The last batch of mulch was left in a pile to decompose naturally with no additives & exposed to the weather on the spot of last year’s Good Bug Mix garden..These will all be left until mid May when a comparison of all batches will be made.. Hopefully we will get some nice nutrient rich blends to use in the patch.. We shall continue to use sugar cane trash while we build up our stores of tree mulch.. (We will swap to Lucerne hay once the S/Cane runs out)
 Since mentioning it on the
Brisbane local Food site a fellow member (thanks Even) pointed me in the direction of Jean Pain & his Brush wood composting methods.. Jean goes a few steps further using the heat from the composting mass to heat water as well as collecting gas to run vehicles & cooking equipment.. These other bi products from the composting process  have interested me greatly but I fear Bianca will not agree with modifying the car to run on methane from compost just yet..
The clip bellow runs through our progress with the different set ups & some of the results so far..

Thanks for reading if you made it this far.. Feel free to leave suggestions if you can see where we could improve in our methods..
Have a great one…